This up-and-coming London-based fashion designer takes on punk values and sort of adjusts them to a queer perspective or eye. Luke Neil does so by word play, or rather playing with concepts, like his latest collection titled Punk Puff, where he quite literally puffs up his creations. Read on to get to know what he's been up to ever since he enrolled into London College of Fashion and what he thinks about truly practicing sustainability in the world of fashion.
Congratulations on your Punk Puff collection! You’ve managed to captivate the fashion world with such diverse and innovative pieces. What was the inspiration and process behind the collection?
Cheers! Punk Puff is a rebellious LQBTQ+ motivated collection that celebrates being a queer punk. The word ‘puff’ was used regularly to describe me (as a gay man) growing up by many misleading people. This word also has strong connections to the puffer elements that run throughout the collection, and is also a way for me to reclaim the use of the word and inject my emotions into my work. I aim to make a statement with the silhouettes and looks I make, this collection is basically a large fuck you to how queer people are made to feel alienated their whole lives by certain members of society.
A lot of your work centres around themes and motifs that reference subversive genres such as punk and grunge. What is your personal history with these influences?
The heavy punk/grunge motifs that my work is connected to are heavily formed around the feeling that I take from specific genres of music such as alternative punk, drum & bass and hyper pop. I would definitely say that music plays a heavy role in the clothing I create… It's always blasting in my ears and it's a point of research and inspiration throughout my work. The adrenaline and excitement I get from an intense track is the type of energy I try to put into my design and making process, it's like food for the soul, without it I wouldn’t enjoy my time designing any where near as much.
Subversive styles such as neo-grunge are becoming extremely popularised in today’s fashion and your work captures these elements perfectly. What would you say drew you to this style?
I am constantly blown away by older and newer rave cultures around the world. It’s so intriguing to study the looks and atmospheres of raves and the underground scene. These events are safe spaces for queer individuals like myself and you will definitely see the most unique fashion/people at these sorts of venues. The New York Club Kids are a main part of this interest into rave culture, I am continuously impressed by each photo I see from the raves during the 1990s, and how their involvement in shifting gender norms is still present in today's drag, rave and fashion industries.
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As a current undergrad student at London College of Fashion you’ve already managed to create a name for yourself amongst the fashion industry with your bold pieces and stand-out social media videos. What has the past year been like for you including life with lockdowns?
University this past year has been great! The feedback from tutors at LCF is always very appreciated. Lockdown didn’t have a negative affect on my studies at all, if anything it made me work much harder. I am definitely a designer that likes to detach from the world when I am creating and form my own little bubble, it was a perfect opportunity to develop individually and become even more focused.
Your clothes have been worn by the likes of the musician Girli and drag bombshells Bimini Bon Boulash and Ginny Lemon. What was it like seeing your designs on some of the most influential stars of our generation?
It is really the most exciting part. I’ve spent a lot of my time over the past year networking and putting my creations to good use so I could work my way up in the young designer scene. So, seeing my work on people that have such a valued opinion and that I personally admire is pretty cool. Being able to create a look and form a vision for a shoot is such a fun way to celebrate the work I make. I am currently working on more collaborations with some queer icons, so I am really excited to be continuing to work with amazing creatives.
What are your likes and dislikes about the current climate of the fashion industry?
I am enjoying seeing students and young designers claiming their pathways and becoming noticed online. Instagram, as a leading platform, can have negative effects on humanity in many ways, but in terms of fashion, it’s doing bits. Myself and fellow creatives are getting opportunities that wouldn’t be available without the popular publications reaching more people on platforms like Instagram and Tiktok.
I have always and will always dislike the huge carbon footprint that this industry is leaving on the Earth. We are recently starting to see even more obvious negative effects of global warming in dramatic ways and the consumption and mass production of clothing is still forever growing rapidly. I’m not going to sit here and say I am the most sustainable designer because my process does include a lot of trial and error… It's more about taking that step into educating ourselves on how we can each contribute towards adapting our consumption load and processes to result in a reduction of these catastrophic impacts from our industry.
I would love to see more consumers read further into what they are buying and try to source their clothing in the most eco-friendly affordable way they can. They should realise that jumping on the most recent trend isn’t always the coolest way to look, especially when it's killing our planet. I think thrifting and making an upcycled outfit work is the cooler option.
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How has your Bachelor of Arts in Menswear at London College of Fashion helped shape your current ideas with your latest projects?
My course teaches me important paths of the fashion world, including conceptual design practice techniques that are left open to interpretation for us students. The teaching and work critique as a whole have really pushed my creative vision even further as we are given the freedom to be any designer we want to be, in terms of having the accessibility to study commercial design or focus on avant-garde work, which can sometimes blur the lines between fashion and art.
Growing up who/what were your top creative inspirations?
I have always been intrigued with the multiple forms of art produced around and in music. Watching music videos was always a great way for me to gain inspiration and take up an interest in studying what fashion is being worn during the times of different fashion stages. Being able to feel a certain way from music and to watch a creative vision at the same time is something I can channel into ideas and inspiration for my own work.
I obviously have always been interested in leading designers such as Vivienne Westwood, Alexander McQueen and Margiela as I have been taught about them from the start of my studies in fashion during school. These names are among some of the top role models in the punk fashion world.
Has fashion always been the career choice for you?
I honestly can't even remember enjoying my high school education before year ten, as from then onwards I have been taught Fashion and Textiles in quite a lot of depth. I have always been interested in any form of clothing… From dressing build-a-bears and barbies in my younger childhood years to shopping with my pocket money and styling my own outfits growing up. Non-uniform day used to be such a fun concept; I remember loving the fashion around high school years and seeing what everyone was going to wear. Going straight from high school into a fashion diploma at college has allowed me to be focused on fashion being my only career option for a long time, probably since I was around 14.
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Gender and sexuality are two topics that are often spoken about in relation to fashion, and you’ve previously discussed your past struggles with expressing these elements of your identity. In what ways has fashion helped you navigate your way through this expression?
Art just feels like my way of expressing my personality and having fun. Music, fashion, image, identity and hobbies are all things that I can use to feel most myself and fashion is the biggest tool from these for me. What I create and what I wear are both ways in which I can use fashion and my creative vision to show people my identity and who I am as a person. Without having this interest in fashion I feel I wouldn’t be able to open up or express my identity as well as I can now.
What would you say your favourite thing about the London fashion scene is?
I am always taken back by the level of creativity and uniqueness in and around London, it's really great to be in a city that has a space for upcoming designers along with the well-known names. I feel this city is really good for students, as there are so many opportunities for young creatives. Once you start to mix into the fashion scene you meet more people than what I would in my hometown in Newcastle-Upon-Tyne.
What should we expect from Luke Neil in the future?
I'm currently developing a new collection in line with carrying on making looks for performers and artists! I am all about carrying on the grunge vibes in shoots, shows and looks! Keep a look out for all my upcoming stuff on my Instagram and Tiktok.
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